Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 31.--The Order and Process of Healing Our Heavenly Physician Does Not Adopt from the Sick Patient, But Derives from Himself. What Cause the Righteous Have for Fearing.
|But God,| they say, |is able to heal all things.| Of course His purpose in acting is to heal all things; but He acts on His own judgment, and does not take His procedure in healing from the sick man. For undoubtedly it was His wish to endow His apostle with very great power and strength, and yet He said to him: |My strength is made perfect in weakness;| nor did He remove from him, though he so often entreated Him to do so, that mysterious |thorn in the flesh,| which He told him had been given to him |lest he should be unduly exalted through the abundance of the revelation.| For all other sins only prevail in evil deeds; pride only has to be guarded against in things that are rightly done. Whence it happens that those persons are admonished not to attribute to their own power the gifts of God, nor to plume themselves thereon, lest by so doing they should perish with a heavier perdition than if they had done no good at all, to whom it is said: |Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.| Why, then, must it be with fear and trembling, and not rather with security, since God is working; except it be because there so quickly steals over our human soul, by reason of our will (without which we can do nothing well), the inclination to esteem simply as our own accomplishment whatever good we do; and so each one of us says in his prosperity: |I shall never be moved?| Therefore, He who in His good pleasure had added strength to our beauty, turns away His face, and the man who had made his boast becomes troubled, because it is by actual sorrows that the swelling pride must be remedied.